I wrote the little bit below these words a few weeks back and was reluctant to share it. We weren’t real-world friends; we were weirdoes connected by only words. And maybe it’s arrogant for me to share it at this point. That makes me laugh because Penni would say, “Hardly anyone uses social media to talk about the depth of their life, the good and the bad. They’re going to think whatever they want to anyway, and that’s kind of the point, isn’t it?”
Penni: For Your Thoughts
I had a fan for years. She read anything I ever wrote across all of my platforms. One of the reasons I made an impression on her was that she, too, lost a spouse suddenly when she was younger. She encouraged me to share and overshare. To jump into being an imperfectionist and just write. She enthusiastically asked for and read many things that no other person had ever read. She often got amused because it was obvious she outclassed me in intelligence and humbly deflected my insistence that it was true.
Her burden must have been incredibly heavy. I don’t know how, at my age, I can still be shocked. But she would have laughed at that and told me that of all the people in the world, I should know everything’s eventual. And no matter how wild the stories sound, they were all lived and earned.
Her stories are over now. I don’t want to get deep into the thicket of what happened; truthfully, we found out about her death in the weirdest possible way. Her passing wasn’t in the news. It was an exercise in craziness just to get a confirmation of her death from the police.
It’s obvious that the only way to show my appreciation for her enthusiasm and support is to do what she always told me to keep doing.
I’ll include one of the few messages I kept of hers.
“…remember when you explained the 10% or the Bald-Head rule to me? People around you aren’t going to see the same light others do. Their familiarity with you and the idea of you they have in their head will blind them. X, you’re creative. And you are your own worst enemy. You already say you’re an imperfectionist. Run with that. Be weird. Write about whatever the hell you want to. With your heart on your sleeve and a curse word on your tongue. Just don’t stop. You’re going to do it anyway. Eff the critics who never take a chance. If I can appreciate you, others do too. You’re going to get into trouble with people if you do it right.”
Now, I note her absence in my posts and on my blog. Just silence.
I sat at my computer, composing an amusing anecdote about my day.
A gentle knock at my door startled me. I checked my outside cameras and saw no one.
A few moments later, another knock, this time a little more pronounced.
I got up to see who might be there, assuming it was a friend ducking away from my camera’s view.
I opened the door to see a man of about forty standing there. He was dressed in a suit and tie.
“May I come in?” he asked, laughing.
“Uh, no. I don’t let strangers inside, at least until they show me a gun or amuse me.”
“Hmmm. No one ever declines my request. Do you know who I am?” He smiled, awaiting an answer.
“No. Insurance salesman? Bail bond agent?”
The man laughed.
“Close. I’m The Gatherer. It’s your time, X.”
He pulled a white business card out of his back pocket. He handed it to me. The only words written on it were “The Gatherer.”
“Well, that is mysterious!” I replied.
“Look closely at my eyes, X” He stepped one step closer. Instead of backing away, I stepped one step closer to him, a trick my dad taught me. The man flinched slightly. I saw a brief surprise ripple through his shoulders.
I stared intensely. His blue eyes shifted, and I saw a blue sky with a burning field in both. It was as vivid as anything I’d ever witnessed. To my surprise, it didn’t alarm me.
“Care to guess now? I think you know. Your time is up.” He grinned.
“Well, I was promised that I would live until at least 2034, so could you come back at a more convenient time?” I laughed.
The man took a step back, a look of confusion on his face.
“That’s just twelve more years, a mere drop in the bucket.”
“I’ve had a good life. I’ve loved and been loved. But I must see how the next few years play out, Mr. Gatherer.”
“In that case, we can work something out, X. But you must invite me in where we can talk like civilized men.”
I laughed. “I don’t know how to talk like a man. And I won’t invite you in. I’ll leave the door open and if you choose to enter, you do so of your own free will. We can have a cup of coffee if you’d like.”
I turned and went to the kitchen and began preparing two cups of Keurig coffee. When I turned, Mr. Gatherer was seated in my computer chair, his hands on his lap. I handed him a cup of coffee and sat on my soft couch. My cat Güino rubbed up against the stranger’s legs. I noted that the cat’s fur stood on end each time he made contact.
“Get to it,” I said as if such conversations were a part of my daily routine.
“Perhaps I can delay my duties until 2034, but there is a catch. But you knew that.”
I nodded. He continued.
“To concede you these extra years, you must both save a life and let a life willingly go. Not cause it. Just let it happen.” I could see a hint of fire in his eyes.
“What? You don’t want to know the terms?” He was definitely confused.
“No. You and I both know there is a hidden catch and a deeper context. I’m not smart enough to know what that might be. I’ll take my chances and let it ride.”
He laughed. “Would you believe me if I told you that it is much harder to save a life than to allow one to pass? You’re the first person in eighteen years who managed to get me to avoid my gathering as soon as we met.” He shook his head. I’m sure he was remembering the last person who had done so.
“I didn’t know for sure. But I like creativity, and I love good stories. I was waiting on aliens, but the reaper has a nice touch to it, too. I’m not dumb. I know my hourglass is tipping over. What happens next?”
He took a sip of coffee. “I’m going to finish this cup of coffee and tell you some secrets. In full disclosure, the truths are something you think you want to know, but they will plague you until your time to meet me again comes.”
“I survived the last president and Covid. And a Love Boat remake, so I think I’ll be okay.” I snorted a little.
“First, you will be blessed with good fortune. Not necessarily monetarily. Death pings worst when you have a good life. Second, the person you’ll have to allow to pass will surprise you. Every ounce of your body will fight it.” He smiled and his mouth curved into a cruel crescent moon.
“They will have died anyway,” I said, certain I was right.
He hesitated. “Yes, that’s true. But everyone feels like they could have done something. And in your case, you could have.”
I stood up and walked toward him. “Look into my eyes and you’ll see what’s there.”
The Gatherer peered directly at my face. I let him delve into my memories. His eyes widened in shock. I knew he found that hardness left from my childhood, the same hardness that allowed me to survive it. Few people knew that it was a tangible thing sitting in my heart. He saw that I had been convinced more than once that I was already seeing my own death. And that I had witnessed death that convinced me I might not make it out alive afterward.
“Hmmm. Interesting. They didn’t tell me you were one of those people. But everyone breaks under the deal I’m making.” He patted Güino’s head. I could hear my cat purr. He finished his cup of coffee in one gulp.
“Before I go, I must share another truth with you, X. In another version of your life, you should have been wildly successful, traveling the world and helping people. That life was glorious.” He smiled with his teeth this time.
I reached out my hand to shake his. “I assume when we shake hands, I’m agreeing to the terms and conditions, whatever they might be.”
He nodded and took my hand. His hand was cold but shockingly hard and firm.
“Before you go,” I told him, “look into my eyes one more time. I already see the loophole.”
He shook his head. “No, you don’t. No one does.”
And he did, drawing in a powerful breath and holding it.
I let him peer into the future, the future I was choosing.
He saw it, the loophole closing in my head.
“That IS interesting! No one ever sees it.”
“It’s simple. As long as I am ready to go, the deal dies with me. I still have free will to make my choice. It will have given me the choice of a few more years. I will save a life and give my own. That’s the way it’s always been, hasn’t it?”
He laughed. “It’s been a pleasure doing business with you.”
“You as well.”
As he walked out, he turned and said, “I will meet you again, X”
“Yes, but when I’m ready. That’s the deal. And lose the suit and tie. Wear something casual and enjoy yourself.”
He closed the door behind him.
I sat back down at the computer. Güino jumped into my lap as I began to write again.
Noun: A word that describes the feeling that something is about to go miraculously well or so terribly wrong that it might scar you forever.
You can’t step away from the moment, nor would you want to.
Whatever happens, you know it is inevitable, necessary, and life-changing.
You’ll either be fulfilled or left vacantly discontented.
There are words that approximate the feeling, but none capture the personal essence of that infinite certainty that what is about to happen will be a liquid miracle or massive catastrophe. A liquid miracle is one that seeps into everything in your life and finds its way into everything about you: love, an epiphany, the motivation to suddenly just “do” the thing that you couldn’t do before.
The risk of love, the birth of a child, surgery, or the moment when all your reasoning collapses and your course of action becomes a decision rendered as involuntary action and certainty. It is a surrender to the idea that you don’t have control of the outcome.
You’ll be changed forever.
You want it and fear it.
Because our language is entirely invented and arbitrary, I have as much ability to create new words as anyone. Words are what we say they are, just as love and happiness are. I’ve always been fascinated by words and language – and especially the absence of any controlling factor to create and use them. The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows made me realize just how ridiculous our defense of grammar and etymology is. I will put a link in the comments to a TED talk by the creator of that fascinating idea.
PS If you find yourself in a crux moment, one in which life will either reward or bash you for having the audacity, please remember that you might as well fall or jump into the opportunity. Ask.
“Life is exactly like wanting to go for a ride and jumping on a bicycle with square wheels.” – X
“It’s 100 times better than yours, though,” I reply.
“I didn’t tell any jokes.”
“Exactly!” I usually reply. .* I modified the social media meme by exchanging one word; it changed everything.
You don’t have to write, draw, paint, make music, dance, or any of the other million ways to express yourself. But in failing to do so, your life exudes monochrome dullness. Whatever you love doing or creating, do it. You don’t have to do it well. I’ve never seen a newborn baby play Chopin or Merle Haggard. Even if you’re sixty and find enjoyment in whatever form of expression, feeling like you must be an expert is pure insanity.
A beginner’s mind – a beginner’s heart.
Remember when you did something with enthusiasm? Regardless of the result?
Well, the clock is ticking.
There will always be critics.
Even if you do it PERFECTLY, it will not be to everyone’s liking or taste.
It was 7:30 a.m. The sunrise was supposed to happen five minutes earlier. Clouds had rolled in to obscure it. Rain and storms arrived the night before. The early morning Sunday October sky was dark and beautiful. Without thinking about it, I found that I was headed to a part of the trail I rarely walked. About a quarter of a mile in, I noted the three abandoned antique vehicles in the brush. The broken, ancient barbed wire fence appeared, its length sporadically still intact.
Over the last year, the wild brush and trees on the other side called to me as I walked by them. I had no idea who owned it. The apparent neglect signaled to me that such a careless owner did not own it at all. The serpentine topography hid all clues about precisely where I was, as did the dense canopy of trees. When I approached the creek bed that flowed under the presumptive fence, I saw that the fence there was gone. Though my shoes were inappropriate for anything except pavement, I stepped through the gap.
With the second step, the air brightened, and the scent of fall decay receded. I took a dozen more steps and pushed against the gnarled branches.
Though the valley should have been shadowy and dark, I could feel the sun’s rays touching my neck. I looked behind me to see that the neglected bushes and trees were gone. In its place was an ankle-high expanse of grass and flowers. I felt like I was experiencing a hybrid dream, one combining Narnia and early-morning half-slumber.
I turned back to look. Instead of foliage, I saw a large red barn with its doors wide open. A hammer clanged rhythmically inside it. A mule stood nearby, untethered.
The hammer continued its work.
“Come on in, I’ve been waiting.” The voice was baritone and melodic.
I didn’t hesitate to walk forward. As I passed it, I rubbed the mule’s neck. It turned slightly to welcome it.
Though the voice did not match my memory, I already knew who would be standing there. I could feel the surety of it.
He appeared to be about forty-five. I never knew him as anything other than old, with a brutal life already behind him.
He wore an old pair of work pants and an oddly green shirt.
“Grandpa? It is you, isn’t it? Your voice is different.” I hesitated.
“I have the voice that belongs to the ideal me. Can I call you Little Bobby, the name I used when we sat on the porch swing together?”
I nodded. Without answering, I walked up to him and hugged him like I learned to do as an adult. He smelled of Old Spice, sawdust, and Cannonball chewing tobacco.
“Little Bobby, I’m most proud that you leaned away from hardness. It could have gone either way for you. I’ve waited forty-four years and three hundred and sixty-two days to tell you that.”
“Yes, but I feel like a failure, Grandpa.”
“I know. None of that is real, son. None of it.” Grandpa put his hand on my shoulder.
He laughed. “I can’t tell you any secrets that you can share. My words are for you only. That’s how it is done. One hour with you is all we get. Help me with this horseshoe, and we’ll talk. Agreed?”
“Yes. Let me help you mess this shoe up. I’m no good at this sort of thing.”
“You were almost a carpenter Little Bobby. And a farmer. Now you’re a writer. Because your job is to find a way to communicate the truth I’m going to share with you without violating the rules here.”
I stood next to Grandpa as he hammered the upper edges of the old horseshoe. The clang of metal was constant and comforting.
Grandpa began to talk, his voice even and confident. I felt like the little boy who sat next to him on the porch swing in Monroe County. Grandpa wasn’t a talkative man nor expressive. Wherever I was, I wanted to stand there forever as he talked. As his voice trailed to a whisper, I realized that the hour was over.
I hugged Grandpa. Instead of sadness, I felt joyous.
“Remember what I’ve told you, Little Bobby. Go live the rest of your life and find a way to share it. We’ll meet again one day and not in the way you expect. You’ll see.”
He turned back to finish another horseshoe, the heavy metal hammer rising and falling.
I walked through the barn doors and ran my hand along the mule’s neck again. Expecting reluctance, I found myself consumed by haste. Not to leave this place but to return to my life, one that would never be the same. In moments I was standing on the trail again, the gap between the creek and fence behind me. Light rain spattered my head and shoulders.
I know you want to know what Grandpa said to me.
I haven’t had enough time to process it, disguise it, and repeat it back. It’s likely that most people wouldn’t accept it. That’s how truth works. It’s obvious after-the-fact but a difficult pill at first.
I’ll give you a hint:
Go outside and look up at the dark sky. Feel the rain lingering in the air. Get a cup of coffee. Find a loved one and put your hand on their arm or run your fingers through their hair. Silence troubled words, worry, or distress that you have no control over your life or the world. Look inside and toward rather than away from.
Hidden inside those words is a world of truth. It’s a zen puzzle that’s not a puzzle at all.
Somewhere, the hammer still rises and falls.
Shadows turn to sunlight.
Voices echo with resonance and truth.
If you’re not sharing your voice and your love, you’re missing the point of everything.
I stood on the landing outcrop. Light rain started about 6:15. It felt like a gift to just let it softly pelt me. Rain has been a distant stranger lately. It’s odd because some Septembers have been torrential.
Earlier, I mistook a visitor to be one of my neighbors. We exchanged pleasantries from opposite corners. I gave him the rest of a bottle of vodka. I already knew he had stayed up at night playing the role of reveler. He is very young, so burning the middle night oil is a requirement for him. It takes a long time to discover that almost everything that happens after 9 p.m. is probably not as meaningful as it seems. Perhaps I sound old saying that. I am old. But I have luckily not forgotten how stupid most of us were when we were younger. When misadventure was mistaken as a sign that we were living life to the fullest.
The picture of the teacup is from my recent jaunt and stay in Compton. Arkansas, not California. Sometimes I sign the inside of one of the teacups from my dear departed friend Jackie – and then hang it in plain sight. Erika signed this one with me. I dared the tall grass, chiggers, and hidden snakes to put it in a tree on the perimeter of the wilderness. I love imagining people finding them accidentally. Surely there are others like me who get lost in wondering about what led to it being placed there. I’ve left so many artifacts in Northwest Arkansas, some in the most unlikely places. A lot of them have been right under the noses of the people I know. Such secrets make me happy.
Did you know that smart televisions use about 18W of power? That’s about two LED light bulbs left on 24/7. It’s not a significant amount, but most people don’t even think about energy consumption for items plugged in yet turned off. Remember when grandma would unplug EVERYTHING because of “the electricity!”
For newer houses or remodels, I can’t believe electricians aren’t installing whole-house surge protectors. They reduce almost all chances of a surge damaging your electronics. I’ve yet to see a homeowner have it explained to him or her and have them say, “No, I don’t want that.” If I were using a rural power grid, it’s the best little bit of money you’ll ever spend. And might save your life, too. I’m surprised that many people don’t know that all power strips don’t offer surge protection. There’s a huge difference in the distinction. Another misconception: most people’s houses do nothing to stop lightning strikes from frying everything (Even really expensive surge protectors you bought at Best Buy). Whole house surge protection going through your main line is about the only way to avoid that sort of catastrophe. Really. It’s true.
Although people think it’s a boring subject, I’d like to mention water heaters, which use a huge chunk of your energy budget. First, most people have their water heaters set too high. Second, when you get a new unit, you should always buy a hybrid heat pump water heater. They pay for themselves in two to three years. They are incredibly efficient and will save you a LOT of money compared to a traditional one. Third, for the love of god, please install moisture-sensitive alarms near your water heater. (And fridge, too, if it has a water line.) Since I’m throwing out random facts, the average shower uses 2 gallons a minute. If you have a luxury bathroom, it might be twice that. Your dishwasher uses between 4 and 6 gallons of water. Larger tank water heaters are more “convenient,” of course, but most of the cost of your water heater is lost efficiency, as it must maintain a set temperature in the tank even when you’re not using it. Tankless and on-demand water heating systems are the best if you don’t have a large family or all six of your siblings living with you “temporarily” for five years while they “figure things out.”
By the way, it’s good to brag that your fridge or washer/dryer is twenty years old. Really, it is. What you don’t realize is that old appliance is drastically more expensive to use than their modern counterparts. Replacing the old one would have paid for itself in a few short years. The energy consumption of a new fridge versus one twenty years old is staggering. You might be saving something from going into the landfill, that’s true, but your carbon footprint is amazingly bigger due to the old appliance’s inefficiency.
I still get a lot of flack for being mostly oblivious to gas prices. I just don’t notice. I have to have gas, so the price is irrelevant. It’s made me much happier than most of the people I know. If money is tight, I would drive less – rather than obsess over getting the cheapest gas. I know someone who drove 11 miles in each direction to save twenty-five cents a gallon. (Excluding the fact that you wait in line and spend thirty minutes of your life going there and back. Time is not replaceable.) I calculated that it cost them $4.05 to drive. They retorted, “Aha! That’s less than I saved!” To which I replied (expecting that answer), “Aha! It costs an average of thirty-five cents a mile for the wear-and-tear and maintenance of your vehicle, doofus. Even if you don’t maintain your car properly, let’s say it’s fifteen cents a mile. You spent MORE driving to SAVE than you saved. It’s math, not your feelings.”
Confession: I am not a money genius. I waste it like nobody’s business. I acknowledge my stupidity, though – and try not to defend it.
Clever joke: hand someone a pair of work boots. They will undoubtedly say, “What are these for?” Just laugh and don’t explain the obvious comeback line to them. Just shake your head disapprovingly. . . .
i jumped from the bed as i always do
not caring, not looking, not even for a shoe
i remember when my body was a weight
as if i’m not it and it’s not me
i don’t worry about how i look
i’ve done what i can
every other man in the world can worry
not me, not ever, never again
i will take what i have
my battery was once low, my spirit unproud
now it’s me, ridiculous perhaps
it seems like arrogance though it’s not
its acceptance for the cards i’ve drawn
and the hand i’ve played with them
i hear the sand trickling down the glass
so it’s me, it’s you
we both better get off our ass
acceptance is cheaper than fixing what ain’t broken
Before: I’m not one to engage in dream recounting. This one, however, was beyond hyper-realistic. I woke up and expected to be in the world and The Event precisely as I dreamt it. I sat down shortly after waking up and wrote it feverishly, without edit.
I derived the title after hearing Justice Carradine singing “How It Ends.” The melodic syncopation strikes a literal chord in my head and heart.
Here’s the story, unchanged from when I sat and wrote it… . . .
I’m not sure why I’m writing this. You were there the day it happened. That Tuesday started like any other. We all started our day drinking coffee, working, or taking care of our kids. At 10:03, everything changed forever. The news started trickling in that navigation systems were malfunctioning. Planes scrambled to make emergency landings all over the world. Scientists believed that the sun emitted a massive electromagnetic flare that interrupted communications. The military went to DEFCON 1. Every talking head with an opinion emerged from their lairs to spout a theory.
By noon, most major communication networks, except the rudimentary ones, failed. No internet, no radio, no cellphones. Covid had amplified the paranoia of so many. Even the worst conspiracists felt like something significant was happening. No one could explain it, though.
Fifteen minutes later, vehicles stopped working.
We didn’t know at the time that all these things transpired to keep us safe.
At 12:46 p.m., an odd feeling of fatigue washed over me. I sat down on the floor at work. Within a minute, I was almost catatonic. Flickers of indistinct images began to fill my head. Galaxies, models of atoms, time-shifting rainbows of complicated mathematic formulas. It didn’t alarm me. I felt peaceful. This was followed by a voice in my head, a melodic androgynous voice, lulling me into calm.
“We’ve done this a million times. Don’t be afraid. We have perfected our first contact. You’re safe, all eight billion of you. It’s time you joined us if you wish. You will experience a flood of images and information. After which, the choice is yours.”
The images were dozens a second. Yet, I felt my brain envelop them without effort—exotic planets, technology, art, languages that required no voice, faster-than-light travel. Finally, images of alien races, some of which no longer required bodies. I’m not sure how long this really lasted. Some people later said it only lasted a few seconds.
At 12:50 p.m., I woke up, my legs crossed on the floor. I felt full of energy and enthusiasm. I did not doubt that an unseen alien presence offered us a gift, forever telling us that we weren’t alone in the universe.
All communications were restored. Vehicles and navigation systems worked perfectly again. My co-workers joined me in the upstairs conference room to watch the network news channels scramble to explain what every living human had just experienced coherently. It was chaos.
We all held our breath, assuming that whatever had just contacted us would do so immediately. It didn’t, though. You were there.
Within minutes, several world powers began to threaten military action against one another. We watched as Russia and China fired nuclear ballistic missiles. The United States launched almost all of its missiles in response. The news host shouted in disbelief, warning us to take cover. “From what?” we all whispered. We were in shock. Most of us felt as if we’d just experienced a whisper of the meaning of life. Seeing our militaries respond in a way that might end all of our lives didn’t feel real.
We waited. Nothing happened. None of these missiles exploded or made contact. It was as if they had disappeared. News reports came in that the missiles went off the radar—all of them. Most countries began firing any available hardware they had remaining. None exploded.
Within two minutes, the President of the United States pre-empted the news channel. Joe Biden was obviously inside a bunker below the White House.
He immediately began to speak.
“We don’t know what has happened. All of our defense systems are down. You must prepare for further attack. Effective immediately, martial law is being declared.” As he cleared his throat, the monitor went blank.
A blue square filled the screen.
Words began to cycle across it in large indistinct letters.
It started with the word “No,” in multiple languages.
Images of entire fields of corn and oats and clear streams filled the monitor. They were followed by the same photos with towering alien structures behind them. We somehow knew that those same images had been transmitted to us while we were almost catatonic. Those structures were solar and wind generators, desalinators, and communication hubs.
“You failed the first phase,” the monitor said, again in multiple languages.
“We assume control of all threats against one another for the entire planet. No military can harm another. Any country trespassing its borders will be rendered incapable of action. We wish you could have figured this out for yourselves in the last hundred years. Humanity is a collective. Life will never be the same as you know it. We mean you no harm. We are not gods. We were once like you. We owe our origins to a common ancestor. Please go about your lives without fear.”
The screen went blue and then returned to the President. He was standing slack-jawed and in shock.
The screen went dark.
I stood with a dozen co-workers, trying to grasp what had just happened. It felt like God had finally intervened in our lives.
When the network news channel returned, it was chaos. Nothing similar had ever happened. The younger news anchor motioned for the camera to focus on him, and he began to speak.
“I don’t know what each of you experienced this morning. I feel like the meaning and purpose of life were just handed to me. I’m glad that whatever is doing this took control of the world’s military forces. We can’t trust people with power to make good choices. I ask that each of you take a moment and wonder if the future we glimpsed is worthy and attainable. For the first time, we don’t have control. I don’t think we ever did, frankly. Be calm if you can, and take a minute to hug and talk to the people around you. If you…”
The station cut to a digestive health commercial.
We turned to one another in the conference room and hugged one another. It was eerily silent except for the blare of the monitor on the wall.
“We have to go back to work. That hasn’t changed.” I don’t know who said it, but his voice propelled us to walk out and quietly back downstairs to our department. Nothing seemed important. Oddly, everything seemed monumental. You were there and might understand what I mean. The minutes and hours passed in a blur.
By the time I finished work, people were coming out of their shock. Almost all the major churches in the world were reacting to the morning. The Vatican issued a statement indicating that whatever was communicated this morning wasn’t godly and that such interpretation violated the church’s canons. Most of us felt like it had been, though. Whatever it was that had talked to us individually in our heads felt like a universal presence. Church attendance increased dramatically in the first week. By the second week, it dropped constantly. Within a month, it had fallen to less than 10% of what it had been before The Event.
In the following weeks, there was no more overt communication from whatever had contacted us. Reports began trickling in of scientists, engineers, botanists, and doctors having sudden breakthroughs in their fields. An engineer from NASA figured out a way to increase solar energy generation by using living organisms as a living battery. The same batteries could power vehicles and homes with no emissions and harmful byproducts. A doctor in Mexico City researching viruses discovered that most cancers were caused by previously undetected DNA structures hidden inside cells. A graduate student in Oregon invented a desalination system using no outside energy, which returned the extracted salt to the ocean without affecting the environment. Linguists in Japan wrote an AI that could learn and translate any known spoken or written language to any other almost in real-time.
World governments continued to bicker and argue over laws and resolutions. Canada proposed a new direct democratic system that required no governmental body, using a new AI that allowed every citizen to formulate ideas and submit them. China and Russia attempted to invade several countries. All involved equipment became inoperable.
One morning, I realized I was only sleeping about two hours a night. Many of us gradually began to sleep less, thinking it only affected us. We found ourselves with more free time and energy. Most of us read more, exercised more, and spent more time with friends and family. Though the world seemed to be in turmoil, the truth is that most of us were slowly becoming happier and at peace.
Unfinished… because something stirred me into wakefulness.
Noun. That primordial and overwhelming feeling of homesickness as you travel back to your nest. The eternal feeling that you’ve been gone forever and might not make it back.
No matter where you’ve been, once your focus returns to your everyday life, you want to be home, surrounded by the mundane and familiar. Excitement and travel are interposed moments, transitory and impermanent. They comprise only a tiny percentage of your life.
My word originates in Latin and then passes through Spanish.
With a couple of exceptions, I now only own 3 books. I recently passed on my favorite to someone who might discover something new, even though the words, though translated, are ancient. I don’t know how many books I’ve obtained, only to pass them on to someone else. If I do that, you should know that I found it to be meaningful and want someone to have that same feeling.
Books are worlds. Anyone who disagrees isn’t a bibliophile. I am. You wouldn’t know it by the number of books I own. Having beloved books is certainly a comfort. “I’ll grab one and re-read it,” so many say. For the most part, we don’t follow through. Life is too fast, there are too many distractions, and who has that kind of time? We all do. We just rarely make it. Also, there are so many great books being written, especially by first-time authors. If I miss a book and want to drown in it again, I will find a copy at the library or in one of the new or used bookstores here in NWA.
I love the sight of a mass of books, especially if they are haphazardly placed. This usually means the owner’s fingers often pluck them from their respective perches and read them. The same is true for worn pages, coffee stains, or signs of wear. Books are like us, wrinkles and aged experience. Their contents don’t change, but how we behold them when we take the time to read them certainly does. It’s amazing how many times I’ve reread something only to find that I have changed even though the letters I’m reading have not.
Books aren’t possessions, though we treat them as such. They are like cats, beholden to no one. They are also like cherished photos, ones that sit in closets or under beds, sealed away for safekeeping; they’d rather be seen and touched and remembered for what they are. Time will desiccate the living hands who neglect them.
They are old friends. Though unvisited, they wait for us, timeless and frozen in amber.